By Brian Milne, Vice President, Director of Marketing & Communications, The Holloway Group
Fall is here, which means harvest is coming to a close as the agriculture industry celebrates the end of another rollercoaster growing season here in Central California.
And what a ride it’s been.
The season started this past spring on the heels of the pandemic, with many unknowns still remaining with Russia starting to invade Ukraine, supply chain and shipping challenges starting to snowball, and the cost of nearly every ag input imaginable beginning to soar.
There was little rain, again, which compounded our never-ending water availability issues, not to mention late-spring frost snaps that crippled some farming operations before the season was really underway.
Drought, historic heat waves, water regulations, and a dwindling labor supply continue to plague the industry, but this growing season will surely be remembered for another major hurdle: the soaring costs of the other key ag inputs (fertilizer, chemicals, and fuel).
As I write this, the average price for gas in California was $6.25 – more than 65% higher than the national average and up nearly 20% from just a month ago. And these gas and diesel price hikes hit the ag industry where it hurts most, during harvest, when most of our machinery is running – and running hard.
According to a recent UC Cooperative Extension survey, harvesting costs for a full-production operation account for about 24% of total operation costs, as growers have the pedal to the metal across their fleet of tractors, shakers, sweepers and harvesters, not to mention their pickups and trucks hauling loads to the hullers, wineries and food processors. And with the soaring costs of fuel of late, harvest likely ate up a much larger chunk of farm budgets this year – which means slimmer and slimmer margins for our farmers.
And the rollercoaster ride continues.
Over the past three or four years, we’ve witnessed the ag industry overcome every setback imaginable, from drought to wildfires, a pandemic to record inflationary challenges, yet the industry continues to rise to the challenge and feed our growing population.
According to the U.S. Farm Bureau, less than 2% of the U.S. is made up of farming and ranching families. Yet those farmers and ranchers produce a majority of the food and ag products (86%) we consume here in the U.S.
On average, an American farm feeds 166 people annually. And with the global population expected to increase by nearly 2 billion by 2050, the Farm Bureau projects farmers will have to produce about 70% more food to meet the world’s growing population demands.
From August to October, more than 450,000 farm employees work California’s harvest season, and every one of them is an essential part of our nation’s food supply chain.
The fall harvest season is a wonderful time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but also thank those farmers and ag workers who help put food on our tables.
So, THANK YOU to everyone in the ag industry for making another rollercoaster-ride-of-a-season a success, and here’s hoping there’s fewer ups and downs in seasons to come!
Brian Milne is a Vice President for The Holloway Group. Learn more about Holloway’s products and services at HollowayAg.com.